Expansion raises road questions | Bonners Ferry Herald


THREE MILE — The unknowns of the expansion at Three Mile Junction and the addition of Sturgeon Station Travel Center have business owners worried.

In the Three Mile area, the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho is building their proposed Sturgeon Station Travel Center, which will include a truck stop, Sonic restaurant and cultural exhibits. The Idaho Department of Transportation provides road connection to US 95.

Great Northern Road and Sunrise Road business owners packed the Commissioners’ meeting on November 21, concerned about rumors that those roads would lose access from the motorway in order to accommodate the travel hub. There was also a rumor that a traffic light would be added to Great Northern and David Thompson Drive.

Commissioner Tim Bertling told the Herald that the project is an Idaho Department of Transportation project in partnership with the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho and not Boundary County Commissioners, since the project is on the US 95.

At the time of the November 21 meeting, the commissioners did not have any information about the project that they could share with the public.

“People make a fuss over something that hasn’t been decided,” Bertling said.

Megan Jahns, public information manager at ITD, said the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho is seeking direct access to US 95 south of Three Mile Junction for a new travel hub, which requires a permit. ITD access.

“Prior to granting access, ITD works with the developer to review the impact of new development on traffic and whether the requested access meets the spacing requirements stipulated in the Idaho code,” said Jahns said. “A permit has not yet been issued, but the department, county and tribe have been discussing the matter for months.”

She added that given the proximity of several other accesses on the highway, there is talk of reconfiguring and consolidating the accesses as part of the new development.

“Pre-existing businesses won’t lose access, but it could be changed,” she said.

Traffic demands may necessitate the installation of a nearby signal or light and that access changes and subsequent development in the area could in turn result in a speed limit reassessment, Jahns said. .

“As part of the permitting process that affects local roads, ITD typically seeks input from other agencies; if other pre-existing accesses can be modified, ITD will consult with the owners of these accesses,” she said. “Public comment is not a formal part of the process, as most access decisions are based on state law.”

At some point, the county may ask for comments on the development proposal, she said, but that’s outside of ITD’s purview.

The county will need to approve the freeway approach to the travel center. That approval will go through the Department of Roads and Bridges and then go through the commissioners, Bertling said. This is to ensure that the approach provides a safe entry onto the highway.

At the Rotary Bonners Ferry meeting on Nov. 29, Dennis Weed, the Travel Center’s project manager, said the ITD still decides which route comes off the highway. The road will become a county road, he said, and it will meet county standards.

There has been talk of setting a fire on the Great Northern Road, he said, but that location is not ideal for wintry conditions and trucks trying to climb the hill.

Many business owners at the Nov. 21 commissioners’ meeting opposed the plan due to traffic and trucking issues.

Weed said there was talk of ITD installing a light at Tobe Way, which is just north of the Great Northern Road.

He added that a light is ideal for a truck stop, as it takes some tractor-trailers 18 seconds to fully enter the roadway. A light would give trucks time to enter the road, instead of having trucks sit and wait to pull onto the freeway with speeding traffic.

There will be time for public comment and the public will be notified when a hearing is scheduled, Weed said.

Three Mile is growing, he said, with Dollar General and Tractor Supply looking to build and open locations in the area. It will increase traffic and more road projects and safety planning will also be coming.

Tom Turpin, soon to be CEO of the Kootenai Tribe Development Corporation, also spoke at Rotary and said that between the Travel Center and the upcoming Sonic Restaurant, there will be 40 to 50 job openings.

Officials of the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho have previously stated that its economic actions not only bring in money from outside the region, but taxes and other revenues stay in the community through its tax collection from sale and the fuel tax agreement with the state.

At the Travel Center, 85% of the diesel tax and 15% of the regular gasoline tax will go to the Boundary County Department of Roads and Bridges to continue road maintenance and improvements.

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